Western Reserve committed its first of what resulted in 24 turnovers in the game against a tough Margaretta defense.
While the Roughriders played close with Margaretta in the first half, the Polar Bears took over in the third quarter.
The Division III No. 7-ranked Polar Bears nearly doubled up the No. 16 'Riders in the third quarter and cruised to a 52-39 non-league win on Wednesday night.
"We definitely got worn down," Western Reserve coach Brenda Friend said. "Their bench is just as good as their starters. We weathered a couple of storms for a while until the third quarter. I think the game got more physical. We were wore out."
Margaretta (14-1) led, 23-18, at halftime before outscoring Western Reserve (9-2), 20-13, in the third quarter. It was only that close after a half-court buzzer beater from McKenna Woodruff for the 'Riders.
"We told the girls at halftime that we did not play our best basketball at the half, but we were walking into halftime with the lead," Margaretta coach Eric Kochendoerfer said. "We are a second half team. We were having some good tempo and I thought we were starting to wear them out in the second quarter."
A driving layup by Emma Blankenship cut the Polar Bears' lead to 28-24 with 5:27 left in the third quarter, but that is when Margaretta took over.
Kennedi Hilton scored before Jayden Moore went coast-to-coast off of a rebound and hit a pull-up jumper. Woodruff and Cora Wyers scored consecutive buckets for Western Reserve, but the next 11 points went to the Polar Bears.
Taylor Malson made two free throws and Rockell Kuns drilled a 3 from the right side. Freshman Devyne Eisenhauer picked off a 'Riders pass and fed Kuns for a bucket. Eisenhauer then scored inside before Kuns made a pair of free throws for a 43-28 lead.
"We came out in the second half and wanted to spread it out more offensively," Kochendoerfer said. "We got our bigs in space and I thought we did a good job executing on the offensive end with our spacing."
In the fourth quatter, Smetzer was the recipient of a nice pass from Moore for a layup. Later, Malson's steal and layup, coupled with a pair of free throws by Smetzer extended the lead to 50-33 with 5:33 left.
"We forced some turnovers off our press," Kochendoerfer said. "Whenever we got a run or a spurt, we fed off that. It really helped us push the lead in the third quarter."
The first eight minutes saw great back-and-forth action with five lead changes. Wyers opened the scoring before Jenna Skrada nailed a 3. Margaretta came right back as Moore's triple from the top was followed by a rare four-point play by Hilton.
Western Reserve scored the next six points, but later, a 3 from Kuns gave Margaretta the lead back. A baseline jumper by Avery Tubbs pushed the 'Riders ahead, 13-12, after one quarter.
"We had some missed defensive assignments where they hit some 3s," Friend said. "We just made bad decisions. All of a sudden, we were second-guessing what we were doing. I do not think we got into our offensive sets, but you are also getting doubled and bumped."
The Polar Bears kicked up their level of play early in the second quarter with the first six points, forcing Friend into a timeout. Wyers scored down low for Western Reserve's first points of the quarter, but Kuns drilled a 3 on the other end for Margaretta.
"Western Reserve is a very well-coached team and they are disciplined," Kochendoerfer said. "To force 24 turnovers in a slower paced game is a testament to our girls and how they played. To force 24 turnovers on their home court means we are doing something right."
The 'Riders drew within three points late in the quarter, but Elliana Schaefer's two free throws gave the Polar Bears a 23-18 lead at halftime.
"We failed the part of our test tonight when it comes to ball security," Friend said. "I think sometimes we busted through people, but we were not in control of the ball."
Wyers paced Western Reserve with 12 points and 16 rebounds, but just four of those points came in the second half.
"When you have a great post like Cora, they are only great if they have the basketball," Koechendoerfer said. "We wanted to pick up the pressure up top and make sure we disrupted their offense."
Skrada added 12 points for the 'Riders, who held a huge rebounding advantage (42-25).
"We are not going to win many rebounding wars, but we can win the turnover wars," Kochendoerfer said. "We are going to give up second chances. We do not have 6-footers or big bodies down low. We are blessed with speed."
Moore and Kuns each tallied 10 points for the Polar Bears, who committed just nine turnovers themselves.
"I thought right when we started to fail offensively, then we also had some slips on the defense," Friend said. "If I could stop the game at halftime and maybe refresh - but it does not work that way."
The 'Riders made just 6 of 14 free throws including 2 of 7 through three quarters.
Kennedi Hilton 2-1—6, Taylor Malson 2-2—6, Faythe Smetzer 3-2—9, Elliana Schaefer 1-3—5, Jayden Moore 4-0—10, Jennah Yost 1-0—2, Rockell Kuns 3-2—10, Tori Miller 0-2—2, Devyne Eisenhauer 1-0—2. TOTALS 17-12—52.
WESTERN RESERVE (9-2)
Jenna Skrada 4-2—12, McKenna Woodruff 2-0—5, Emma Blankenship 2-0—4, Cora Wyers 4-4—12, Avery Tubbs 2-0—4, Emma Weber 1-0—2. TOTALS 15-6—39.
Margaretta 12 11 20 9 — 52
W. Reserve 13 5 13 8 — 39
3-point FGs: (M) Moore 2, Kuns 2, Hilton, Smetzer; (WR) Skrada 2, Woodruff